Climate change is a global issue with effects that are difficult to manage at a regional scale. Yet more often than not climate factors are just some of multiple stressors affecting species on a population level. Non-climatic factors—especially those of anthropogenic origins—may play equally important roles with regard to impacts on species and are often more feasible to address. Here we assess the influence of climate change on population trends of the endangered Yellow-eyed penguin (
Megadyptes antipodes) over the last 30 years, using a Bayesian model. Sea surface temperature (SST) proved to be the dominating factor influencing survival of both adult birds and fledglings. Increasing SST since the mid-1990s was accompanied by a reduction in survival rates and population decline. The population model showed that 33% of the variation in population numbers could be explained by SST alone, significantly increasing pressure on the penguin population. Consequently, the population becomes less resilient to non-climate related impacts, such as fisheries interactions, habitat degradation and human disturbance. However, the extent of the contribution of these factors to declining population trends is extremely difficult to assess principally due to the absence of quantifiable data, creating a discussion bias towards climate variables, and effectively distracting from non-climate factors that can be managed on a regional scale to ensure the viability of the population.